Aleksandra Kurzak: "Bel Raggio"
Arias by Rossini. Sinfonia Varsovia, Morandi. Texts and translations. Decca 478 3553
From the well-known title track to scenes from the relatively obscure Sigismondo and Matilde di Shabran, Rossini has a fine champion in the fresh voice and alluring musicality of Aleksandra Kurzak, as evidenced on a new offering from Decca. Yet having recently added Gilda, Violetta and Juliette to her repertoire, the Polish soprano claims to be moving away from Rossini. Puzzling, then, this retrospective — especially as the performances, fine as they are, display little variety in their characterization.
The opening track, "Bel raggio lusinghier," is more effective as a recital showpiece than in its location in Semiramide, and it introduces Kurzak as a winning performer, with musical imagination and an outgoing, spontaneous delivery. Engineering may be to blame for the sonic sameness throughout the CD, yet Kurzak's sound, both sparkling and warm, hasn't been packaged in an annoying way. The orchestra, enthusiastically emphasizing woodwind and brass sonorities, often overpowers the voice, and a few stray top notes only make Kurzak more appealingly human.
The soprano's playful approach to the grand scene from Matilde di Shabran, a role she sang at Covent Garden in 2008, emphasizes Rossini's outrageous writing, especially the rangy leaps of "Tace la tromba altera" and the intricate figuration and tricky chromatic writing that threaten to tax the voice at the very end of the aria. Here and in Kurzak's other well-traveled role, Fiorilla in Il Turco in Italia, masterful technique and real musicianship combine in stunning display. In temperamental moments, where others might resort to a steely and unattractive tone, Kurzak firms up the declamation, biting into the words vigorously. Amenaide's "Gran Dio!" from Tancredi,and Pamira's recitative "L'ora fatal s'appressa," from L'Assedio di Corinto (sung here in Italian), call forth the soprano's most dramatic singing, yet plangent moments, such as Pamira's ensuing aria "Giusto ciel" and "Selva opaca," from Guglielmo Tell (another Italian offering of a French work), are particularly affecting.
Having already recorded "Una voce poco fa," Kurzak turns here to Il Barbiere di Siviglia's Figaro–Rosina duet, "Dunque io son." Baritone Artur Ruciński shows handsome tone but rudimentary coloratura, and Kurzak underplays the scene curiously, perhaps having already turned her interest to more meaty bel canto fare.
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